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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Police Department Pulls Personal Cameras After Guild Objections

posted by on September 16 at 17:37 PM

The Seattle Police Department has apparently pulled a number of pager-sized wearable cameras, which officers had been testing, after the Seattle Police Officers Guild complained that the cameras violated the guild’s current contract. “The city never negotiated it with us. We fired off a…cease and desist [letter] and told the city we’d file an unfair labor practice,” says Guild president Rich O’Neil. “They’ve pulled them. Command staff has assured me they’re back in a box.”

I wrote about the personal cameras—dreamed up by a few former Seattle cops—back in February.

According to O’Neil, officers used the cameras to monitor a Critical Mass ride on August 29th, one month after a violent clash between cyclists and a motorist.

Vievu, the company that produces the cameras, has pushed them as a way to exonerate officers from false misconduct accusations. Although the cameras could potentially benefit officers just as much as the public, O’Neil says the city would need to bargain with the Guild to put the cameras on officers and on the streets.
“I personally have an objection to it but I know that’s where the world is going,” he says. “Everybody deserves a little privacy. I can imagine the first time somebody forgets to turn it off before they go in the john.”

When asked why testing the cameras is any different from having officers test new Segway units, O’Neil said that “a Segway couldn’t get you disciplined.”

The Seattle Police Department could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

RSS icon Comments


"O’Neil said that 'a Segway couldn’t get you disciplined.' "

More hard work from Seattle's finest; CYA is what they do best.

Posted by Greg | September 16, 2008 6:10 PM

I don't like police misconduct any more than the next person, but the SPOG is a union. It's like whenever we talk about the cops all of a sudden Seattle forgets what a union is and what it does.

Imagine you were writing a story about SEIU or the Teamsters objecting to bosses monitoring employees with personal wearable cameras. Imagine you were reading that story. Then where would your sympathies lie?

(OK, I do like police misconduct a teeny, tiny bit more than the next person provided there is a good comedy angle. But still.)

Posted by elenchos | September 16, 2008 6:53 PM

Cops are against anything that makes them do their job, which if I am not mistaken, to protect and serve.

Posted by elswinger | September 16, 2008 7:24 PM

Why give cameras to cops when they can just take them from bystanders?

Oh, whoops. New departmental policy. No more taking cameras.

Just break them next time. Or just say that they are obstructing your police work. Then it's ok. And we can save taxpayer dollars while still respecting the guild contract.

Posted by Trevor | September 16, 2008 7:28 PM

Raise your hand if you want to wear a camera at work, regardless of what you do for a living.

Posted by six shooter | September 16, 2008 7:49 PM

@6. raise your hand if you are responsible for justice on a street level. i'll reply with a guild-worthy statement:

“a software developer couldn’t get you falsely arrested.”

Posted by infrequent | September 16, 2008 8:10 PM

Tell you what: if my job ever involves meting out imprisonment and death, you can put a camera on me to monitor what I'm doing.

Posted by Greg | September 17, 2008 9:08 AM

So then, the issue is privacy? Don't most SPD already have dashboard cams in their patrol vehicles? If so, then one would think wearing personal cams (pointed away from the officer it should be noted) would be considered a logical extension of this, and therefore fall under the pretext of a previously-negotiated working condition.

Granted, car-cams aren't nearly as portable as a personal cam, so I suppose that might constitute enough of a difference to warrant the need to bargain. But again, it's not like there isn't already a precedent set in the existing contract for monitoring officers' activities.

Posted by COMTE | September 17, 2008 9:39 AM

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